Famed French composer Dutilleux dies aged 97

France's Henri Dutilleux, whose modernist and impressionist works ranked him among the leading composers of the 20th century, died Wednesday in Paris aged 97, his family announced.

The internationally renowned Dutilleux, born in Angers in 1916, was a composer of predominantly instrumental works ranging from symphonies, orchestral pieces, violin concertos and piano music.

His latest work "Correspondances" -- recorded by the Radio France Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Finnish conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen -- came out in January this year to celebrate his birthday.

His music, marked by both its audacity and accessibility, was among the most played in the world, with music critic Claude Glayman describing it as "modern classical".

Laurent Petitgirard, a classical composer and musical director of the Paris-based Colonne Orchestra, said Dutilleux was "one of the very rare contemporary composers" whose work entered the classical repertoire in his lifetime.

"His work will remain intensely present after his death," he told AFP.

Dutilleux followed in the tradition of impressionist music laid out by Debussy and Ravel, though he refused to be associated with any particular school.

Born on January 22, 1916 into a family of artists, Dutilleux studied classical music in Douai and later at the Paris Conservatory.

His career took off after the Second World War, mainly with early compositions for film and theatre. His first great success was with a piano sonata written for his wife, the pianist Genevieve Joy, who died in 2009.

He wrote two symphonies and numerous other works, including one ballet, "Le Loup", in 1953, concertos for Mstislav Rostropovich and Isaac Stern and pieces of chamber music.

His 1978 orchestral work "Timbres, espace, mouvement ou la nuit etoilee" was inspired by Van Gogh's "The Starry Night".

Dutilleux spent many years teaching music, including at the Paris Conservatory from 1970 to 1984.

His global reputation grew in the 1980s and 1990s with commissions from leading orchestras including in Boston, Washington, San Francisco and Berlin.

One of his few pieces to include voices, "The Shadows of Time", was presented by the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1997, featuring three children singing in memory of Anne Frank.

As well as numerous awards in France, Dutilleux was also awarded the prestigious Gold Medal from Britain's Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in 2008, where he was hailed for "resisting the merely fashionable to create a distinctive and powerful language that is never simplistic."